Today, many Americans feel like they’re overworked, like it’s impossible to get the number of tasks on their plate done within a reasonable amount of time during the workweek.
But Facebook wasn’t always around; Google wasn’t either. In today’s uber-connected world, distractions abound—arguably more so than they ever have. So before you succumb to the feeling of having an infinite workload, you might want to reexamine your work day to see where you can trim the fat (there’s always fat to trim, mind you).
Let’s take a look at five tips you can apply to your approach to work. Who knows? You may find that your days grow longer (in a good way) and you’re able to get more done.
1. Optimize Your Workspace.
First things first: If you’re the type of person who’s easily distracted, you might want to spend some time configuring your workspace in such a way that’s most conducive to your productivity.
For example, if you’re a musician, you probably don’t want to have a guitar within reach when you get to work. Otherwise, you’ll risk strumming the same five chords over and over again instead of getting your work done. Similarly, sports aficionados probably don’t want to post up anywhere near a TV—remember, ESPN shows SportsCenter like 17 billion times a day. It’s okay to miss a broadcast.
A clean workspace will allow you to focus more clearly on your work—it’s as simple as that.
2. Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize.
Are you the type of person that jots down a to-do list each Monday? Or maybe you’re the type who doesn’t jot anything down and instead flies by the seat of your pants.
Whatever the case may be, to be productive, it’s imperative that you prioritize your responsibilities. A simple example: If you have an assignment due by the end of the day and also one due by the end of the week, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to get started on the latter until the former is finished.
Let’s imagine you don’t have any pressing deadlines; you have five assignments, and all of them are due by the end of the month. In such a situation, you’re probably best tackling the harder assignments (i.e., those that will take more time) first. That way, you can descend toward your deadlines.
3. Use Time Tracking Tools.
Having a hard time figuring out where the time keeps disappearing to? If so, don’t sweat it—managing your time doesn’t have to be insanely difficult.
You can use time tracking tools like Harvest to easily keep track of how you’re spending your time throughout the day. Time tracking tools liberate you from having to worry about how much time you’re spending on which projects; the technology keeps track of all of that information for you, automatically.
In addition to giving you the data you need to make sure projects are getting wrapped up on time and within budget, time tracking tools also provide you with information you can use to more accurately plan future projects. And beyond that, many of these tools offer advanced integrations which may very well help streamline your workflow. For example, Harvest integrates with Asana, so if that’s the collaboration platform you use, you can track your time right from the application.
4. Minimize Your Downtime.
Whether you’ve fallen into an Internet black hole or you’re distracted by some chore around your home or office, it’s beyond frustrating when you glance at the clock and realize you’ve just lost another 30 minutes from your workday. Luckily, there’s an app for that, which, when used correctly, can truly transform your productivity.
Meet RescueTime, a web-based app that tracks the amount of time you spend on certain websites or in certain applications. At the end of the day, the tool spits out things like how much time you spent in your inbox and how much time you spent working on spreadsheets—as well as how much time you spent reading the viral content du jour.
You can also configure RescueTime to block your access to certain websites for a predetermined period of time. But be warned: The app works as designed, so you won’t be able to access those websites until that period passes.
5. Live In The Moment.
While it’s true that, in order to be successful, you’ve got to plan ahead and craft a long-term strategy, you won’t be able to get to where you hope to wind up if you never focus on the present moment and are always thinking ahead. After all, you have a pile of responsibilities on your plate already—and those tasks aren’t going anywhere until you complete them.
As such, it’s important to live in the present moment. Instead of worrying about what will come tomorrow, try to direct your energies to tackling the obstacles you face today. So when you’re working, trying not to focus on the future, or at least keep those thoughts to a bare minimum. In doing so, you’ll free up more of your brainpower for the tasks at hand.
Remember, the world is full of distractions, and all of them compete against your productivity. By consciously deciding to focus on the present moment, approaching work differently and utilizing the latest time-saving applications, chances are you’ll see a spike in your output.